Great concept, yet mixed execution
This here is a classics example of how game couldn't keep up with great concepts. I found the game to be immensely enjoyable and thought provoking, but also found gameplay to be lacking and unfulfilled in different areas and aspects.
What we see here is almost nothing like any other platformer games in term of graphical art as it is very niffy, timeless, and alien. The pixel art gave you freedom to craft what you see is appropriate to your concept and it definitely delivered. Even more, I feel that this might be another good case of gaming as art. The creature design, while very odd and surreal, fits well to the concept and environment.
However, even when environment is excellently dream-like, I felt that it is bit empty and bland too. The architecture design, while simple, leave lot to desire and could benefit bit more from better design and structure. Also, the creature's face looks ugly even if it intentional, although you could argue that it looks "beautiful" to their kinds and not to us.
while close to 8-bit or 16-bit in root, the tunes are eerily atmospheric and memorable and fits well to the environment and theme. Even if they're well made, they felt like they're not fluidly looped well and sometime feel repetitive as result. Menu and Mell's themes are the best of bunch, though.
Plot is bit of mixed bag, though it is still emotionally and philosophically profound. The idea that we dream of dead world and previous life as child in womb is unheard of in gaming sense, forcing us to rethink about how fate and nature play into our lives and the ideas that no matter how different creatures can be, we all strive to live for the best for ourselves and others, even in time of cruel end.
However, I feel that Mell's story have the most impact and implication in overall arc while two other character's story are minimal at best, even though their action do have philosophical impacts. Also, 10 levels isn't enough to tell the whole story and concept you established, so the plot feel lacking and incomplete in the end.
Also a mixed bag in term of execution. While unique platforming gameplay go hand-in-hand with the plot that greatly lend to atmosphere, I feel that they're not extremely polished to the degree where it should be nearly flawless. While platforming engine, gravity, and slingshots are well crafted, the level designs felt like an after-thought where they're not completely taking advantage of gravity and slingshot elements. Also, racing and coin-collecting isn't a good alternative to Mell's story progression levels since they offer very little in entertainment value.
Naijj's levels are the biggest offender since they unnecessarily extend play-time and coin-collecting didn't feel fun as they should be because of bland level design, even when few of areas with coincs are impossible to reach or impossible to get out, leaving me unable to acquire gold medals. Fuzor's levels felt too short because of racing themes, though they do extend play-time for attempts to beat high scores. However, it also give little entertainment values because of too many obstacles in the way and offer little of story progression. Mell's levels, while interesting and have best story, felt too simple with very linear paths laid out for players with conversations being optional. Perhaps the level designs should offer bit of challenge to make players feel more involved.
Even with the flaws, I cannot ignore good efforts. Great concept, perfect atmosphere, thoughtful plot, and unique art are deeply profound and can stick with you for a while after finishing the game. While those elements certainly give this game lot of charm and identity, there's far too many flaws to make this game as one of all time greats on the internet. While the game isn't perfect, it is certainly enjoyable enough to play through entirely and sit back to let the emotional thoughts drown into your minds. Not a must-play, but a should-play for anyone.
Soullock Score: 8.2/10
Newground Score: 8/10